Prosthetics and Orthotics: What’s the Difference?
What are Prosthetics?
Prosthetics are artificial substitutes or replacements of a part of the body such as a tooth, eye, facial bone, palate, hip, knee, or another joint, the leg, arm, etc. A prosthesis is designed for functional or cosmetic reasons or both. Typical prostheses for joints are the hip, knee, elbow, ankle, and finger joints. Prosthetic implants can be parts of the joint such as a unilateral knee. Joint replacement and arthroplasty mean the same thing.
A prosthesis may be removable, as in the case of most prosthetic legs, or a prosthetic breast form used after mastectomy. A person who uses a removable prosthesis, for example, an artificial hand, may want to have more than one available for different types of tasks. Other types of prosthetic devices are permanently implanted, like an artificial hip, testicle, or tooth.
With advances in the biomedical sciences, a few experimental prostheses have been integrated with body tissues, including the nervous system. These highly advanced devices can respond to commands from the central nervous system, more closely approximating normal movement and utility.
What are Orthotics?
An orthosis is a support, brace, or splint used to support, align, prevent, or correct the function of movable parts of the body. Shoe inserts are orthotics that are intended to correct an abnormal or irregular walking pattern, by altering slightly the angles at which the foot strikes a walking or running surface. Other orthotics include neck braces, lumbosacral supports, knee braces, and wrist supports.